Thursday, August 27, 2020

Another Way to Use Desmos

 I stumbled across another way to use in the classroom as I was tutoring two boys yesterday and another today.  As I was getting ready for yesterday's session which was for graphing lines using the three forms of a line in Algebra 1, I was using the Desmos calculator.  I was typing in equations to see what I wanted to do with them.  And, then it dawned on me that I was getting to do all the work playing in Desmos, so I thought, hey, I can have my students screen share and pull up and I will tell them what to type.  I will ask them what they notice.  They can get used to the nuances of the math equations.  So, that is what I did and it went really well.  There were two boys in a session yesterday so I had them each share for half the session and I called on each of them to answer my questions.  I thought it was more powerful than just sharing or reading notes to them.

Then, in today's lesson which was introducing Inverses in Algebra 2, I took my regular classroom lesson that starts with plotting points and plotting their inverses (they don't know that yet) and then asking what they notice.  But, last night in bed, as I was trying to fall asleep, I thought, why don't I videotape my session with Charlie and share it as another way to use Desmos.

So, you could use this remotely - synchronous or asynchronous or with kids live in front of you, or to tutor over zoom.  

Or, you could ask students to volunteer to be a guest on your video and meet on Zoom outside of class for the student to play student and screenshare what they are doing as you talk them through it.

If you are live in class, but social distancing, you could have your class on zoom, ask a student to share their screen and project from your teacher computer to the front of the room and ask the class questions as the student works.

I really enjoyed both my sessions.  I did videotape Charlie's Algebra 2 live and I reenacted Mitch and Luke's Algebra 1 session to give you an idea of how this might work.

Algebra 1 - Graphing 3 forms of a line


Algebra 2 - Inverses

Tuesday, August 11, 2020


Yesterday was Monday, August 10th, 2020.  My mind is swirling with all the uncertainties this fall holds.  I was fishing on a lake in Maine and it allows my brain to empty and then get creative.  

I was thinking about #VNPS - Vertical Non-Permanent Surfaces - working at whiteboards in collaborative groups in the classroom - 3 kids staying in a close spacing - passing/sharing/taking turns with 1 marker.  Well, that won't be allowed this school year.  I was trying to think about how I could turn these lessons into a virtual whiteboard lesson.  I miss the math conversations.  I worked some hard on getting them the past 3 years and then when we went to zoom remote teaching in the Spring, most kids had their microphones off and lost their voice.

 Now, I need to find a way to hear students' discussion/debates/strategies and watch them work it out.  I thought I need some practice students to try some tech tools on to see if it will meet our needs.  I put a tweet out at 11am EST for people to sign up to help me on Tuesday at 11 am EST - 24 hour turnaround.  I didn't want to think about it much more.  

And, people signed up.  Over 50 teachers came to join in our investigation.  I was estimating we might go for an hour, but we went for almost 2 hours.  I appreciate everyone who came to play today.  I think in the business world, this might have been considered a Focus Group and people might actually get paid to test the tools like we did.  But, you's different in the teacher world.  I am on vacation and did this.  But, enough of that.  

I had high hopes.  I thought I was going to try 4 and come away with at least 1 maybe 2 tools that might do the job.  

Synopsis of our work:

  • Google Slides with a Visual Pattern type problem. Ask students to investigate what changes as the step changes.  We did this at #TMC17 and I have used it on the first day of school in Geometry every since.  I made a google slide and made slides for groups of 4 to work on together.  I gave them a topic to investigate after we did a brainstorming session.  I wanted them to be able to work in breakout groups and discuss as well as use a pencil tool with different colors to show their thinking. We learned:
    • There isn't really a pencil tool in Google Slides.  It is the line segment and you choose squiggly.  Some people added text, so people tables, but not so great to draw.
    • I should lock my backgrounds so students don't accidentally move them - make them, take a snapshot, and then add back in as a picture.
    • It was suggested if I have 8 groups, to make those 8 pages hyperlinks so the kids can just click on their page.
    • Teacher can see if live.  Teacher could write on if needed.  
  • Desmos New Whiteboard in Activity Builder with Geometry Oral instructions.  In my old class, I would have groups of kids at the board and I would say 1st person, draw and label Point P, draw and label line AB, etc.  I envisioned the Whiteboards in Desmos as if it was a group one and they would all be able to write on it in the same group.  I made 15 whiteboards in one Activity Builder.  I made breakout groups but didn't put them into the groups - instead had them write down their room number and student number as they were listed.  I said, all my #1s, draw and label Point P.  I thought there would be 1 WB for Group 1 with a point on it and one for group 2, etc.  Instead, there were 5 WB in Group 1 because - my brain wasn't working correctly - and each student is working in their own Desmos AS, they aren't working on each others, so not really the collaborating I wanted.  We learned:
    • I could use the overlay function to see all of Group1's together, but that is not what I was intending.
    • Also, pointed out, oral over zoom may be too difficult for hearing impaired students so would need another way for directions - in chat?
  • Next up, we tried  Students don't need to sign in.  I gave them a code.  I had not used this one.  I did know they would be individual whiteboards.  I combined this with an Open Middle problem where students had to use #1-9 to fill in blanks.  I had the picture on My WB for them and they had their to look at.  We learned: 
    • I can push my image onto the student's board under the bottom of the teacher WB (little tough to find)
    • Ethan wrote on his WB before I pushed my image so it covered his work.  He then could remove my image too.  So, that is a little weird that it isn't locked.
    • I can see everyone's work, but I am not sure there is really a way to collaborate.  
    • Oh, yes and Sam moved in on Ethan's WB by signing out and signing back in using Ethan's name and then he could write on Ethan's WB.  That could be trouble.
  • And, my fourth and final was  I used this a lot in the spring.  Both my kids and I liked it.  I used it more for live practice.  I made like 4 slides each with a problem on it.  Not so easy in math with having to add equations.  I still have to type it in Google doc and screenshot it and input as a picture.  I can see all their WB and write on them.  I used these in Zoom so I could call someone back to a certain slide and work with them on it, or they could call me to a slide if they were stuck.  Kids can raise a hand using the tech and if it is teacher enabled, then you can let other students help someone who is raising their hand.  We learned:
    • If someone helps someone and then leaves, you can't tell who helped out (or maybe wrote something inappropriate).

Here is my Google Slide LINK to what I used. (Hint; There are Schitt's Creek GIFs in it)

 Here is our long Zoom conversation.  Password is: V2JRq+3N. ( I hope that works)

Overall, it was so good to have this conversation in a safe place where we could trial and error and discuss and learn and make mistakes.  I did not walk away with 1 tool I will use.  As usual, I will have to figure out what it is I hope to accomplish with the task and then find the best tool to handle it remotely.

HINT: Someone should make something where kids can work on whiteboards collaboratively with a decent tool for drawing and writing out math and a good teacher dashboard.